Me and Dad.

pauldrobertson

Perth, Australia

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Artist's Description

Pastels on lame cheap paper.

THE SEEKING OF AN AUDIENCE.
Here I am, here I am I exist, time passes for me my memory swirls and burns and I am SO DIFFERENT and so very clever and unique and special and tortured love me love me, hold my hands in the night, and look at me with love spread warmly across only a beautiful face and listen to me listen to me you must LISTEN TO ME.
It has come to my attention recently, though it has (fortunately enough perhaps, at least for my ego fragile and all consuming as it is) NOT been pointed out to me – that all the things that I do are done to fulfil the heavy impossibility of satiating my need for an audience. I feel compelled to be listened to. I am looking for someone to listen to me continually – and when either I have filled my lover’s ears with enough lies and wild ideas and truths, or (much, much worse) they decide they have HEARD ENOUGH, I loose or lose my grip on them and they are gone from me. Most of the time I decide that I have told them enough, mixed, it is true, with regret and sadness that I must hurt them so… and break from them. Leave my lover’s arms to fill more ears with concoctions old and new. Sometimes my audience leaves me. Sometimes they leave. Just like that.
“Dad, what does it all mean? Why are we here?”
I have never asked my father this question. I should perhaps. I have been trying to put words into his mouth. Trying and failing to assume part of his mind for long enough to answer my own question with his words.
“Paul – all these things that we were and are, they are fundamentally, infinitely important!”
No. I don’t think he would say that. He is inscrutable in many, in most ways. I have been blessed with the most compassionate family any man could wish for, but I do not know how any of them would answer this question.
“Paul, we live our lives and then we live no longer. We are succeeded only by the memory of us, this USURPS us, a coup of memory. Then those that remember us live no longer and everything that once was us is no more.”
He would not say that, either. I don’t know. I am speaking through the guise of my father. I am trying to find some truth with my own words in my father’s kind mouth. He is an atheist, like me, but he believes in some kind of order… “It doesn’t seem so bad, being part of Darwin’s progression.” He said that to me once, though once again I cannot hear it clearly in my mind and have stamped and shaped it blithely with my own words. Some things of him, some parts I remember…
Were I him – he was at my age a father of two and had built houses and had travelled to many countries to help other people. Have I even come remotely close? Is this any manner of judging our lives? I have fathered only what are to be starkly realist – only a few cells of aborted matter. I have saved no lives I have married no one.
My father had named some hitherto undiscovered bacillus and he built a computer some time around 1978. By the time he was 30. I am thirty three.
He had also a master’s degree, a PhD – I have a bachelor, yes. I do. Ah well.
I am still trying to put words into his mouth –
“We are here to create – life and beauty. We must be good to others if for no other reason than in so doing to respect ourselves. To think and believe – not only as we lie dying but also in the time that stretches before then for all of us, for as many moments as we can hold to us – that we love others. And that we love ourselves.”
Ah you see? “to create life AND beauty.” I am reassuring myself and trying to make what I am and what I do worthwhile. I fill his mouth in my imagination with words, though I still don’t know what he would say. I cannot even imitate him well, and after all, I HAVE known him all my life. He is a very beautiful soul. I want him to be with me always, for him to last and last and last. I must, I must ask him these questions before… before…
Fuck.
My sister, my glorious devastatingly impressive sister, said something to me whilst I was visiting her recently that elicited feelings that were, for me, intensely strange. She said that I should look for a woman who could not have children, as, with my illness… How she finished what she was saying remains unclear. But what she meant was that I couldn’t or at the very least, shouldn’t, father children. And I was hurt. I… I am trying to find within myself why. Perhaps it was my pride, that she did not think me a man capable of looking after or raising children. Perhaps there was some sense of PATTERNITY stirring, somewhere in the ancient reptilian corners of my mind.
The selfish gene. Let it contend with the selfish man. When people ask me if I want children I answer with this (I am in these days of what I suppose are early middle age, honest, to a point:)
“If I had a child, my life would be centred around that child. I believe my nature would let me do nothing less. And I do not want my life centred around a child. My life is centred around my SELF.”
Perhaps when I am very old I will look back – I will see the sons and daughters of the people around me and I will wish harshly with tears scalding my failing vision and my frail hands in claws – wish and wish and wish that I had lived a different life, and that I had brought life into this world. Or PARTICIPATED, yes. Hah. My life has not shaped itself thus, in either case.
So. I look for an audience.
Sometimes… I am forced to look into myself and look HARD to create something new. Spontaneously. And I do. And it frightens me. I reach into my mind and I realise that there are oceans and oceans worlds, perhaps, which I have not even begun to touch upon. It is terrifying. It means that I am not doing what I could, that I am not turning my mind to the stories – to the music and art – that I COULD BE CREATING IF I WAS BRAVE ENOUGH.
This is tainted by the other knowledge – that what I am doing when I DO CREATE is to look for an audience, to reach out into the dark and find admiration and glory and love. Love, always. Whatever that might be.
When I was in my early twenties and late teens I drank. This is common knowledge, though I rarely talk about why.
I was a bright kid. I had learned that I was worthwhile, and that the things I did were special and uniquely important in some way that I didn’t understand but believed. My parents had taught me this, and I will always be grateful.
But in my early twenties and late teens, I could or would not do the things that were necessary to succeed. My life was not just filled with anxiety, my life was anxiety itself. Every motion I made was full of the awareness that I had not taken the steps to build and create to learn and succeed, to be anything, to anyone, which I was always taught that I could be. I would wake and squirm in my bed as awareness of who I was sank into my mind, traditionally poisoned by the night before.
I despised myself as the untruth I had made of my belief in my difference, in my potential, filled my heart. True, fierce hatred. I would stand, shaky, my head hurting nothing like my heart, and clutching my hand to my chest, I would open another bottle. I would grimace as I twisted the cap and then lift it, quickly, often knocking the glass against my teeth, in an agony of self knowledge. It would burn in my mouth down my throat and I would pace or twist my hands together or scratch at my face until the ethanol soothed me, I remember… I could feel it blooming in warm calm from my stomach, suffusing me with false comfort even as I bitterly despised my need for it.
I don’t crave alcohol much any more. What I crave is the oblivion that it brought. The calm. The lie that it brought even as I am terrified of the truth that it created.
“Dad, what do you think that it all means?”
“It means nothing Paul. We are like flames burning, like leaves falling. We are matches flaring and dying in the face of eternity. We are God’s exhalation even as he takes another breath. We are a translation of E=mc squared. We are a result of the second law of thermodynamics that you are so fond of, and of the first. We are heat seeping into the universe, we are burnt time, each act a contrivance to more efficiently disperse energy. Energy never dies, it only changes form. But our consciousness is not just energy, but order, and it is order that will disperse and disintegrate when we die. We are the embodiment of the laws of change and constancy and we are its CHILDREN. And that is all.”
Well. I place words, carefully, slowly and gently, into my father’s mouth in my mind.
We believe in radio waves, microwaves, all the sounds that are too deep or too high for us to hear, and yet we cannot experience these things. Might there not be much more, infinitely more, outside our experience, that we have not had the practical means to explore?
I believe it is reasonable to assume this is the case. But without experience, and without the experience of others to place tools in our hands and evidence in our minds, then this assumption is meaningless. It cannot be seen by us to directly affect us, and therefore it cannot have meaning. Some see faith as moving them and their lives directly, and in truth this idea frightens me even as I envy them.
“Dad, what does this life mean? How can I make my life meaningful?”
“You must choose your actions carefully, and you must believe in them. You must apply meaning to your life by your actions, and intrinsically, by faith that it does matter. This means choosing to believe that you are important, even if you can only believe you are important by believing in the importance of others.”
He would not answer like this. This is an injection into his character that is false and clumsy. It is the clumsiest of my attempts. Ah well. Ah hell.
My father is a scientist, somewhere at his core. I was brought up; I was taught, to ask questions, continually, never to stop. And I think that this is the case, though of course, every question answered inevitably leads back to the same fucking thing:
“Dad, what does it mean?”
“It means that when you hurled abuse at me, when you stole things from me, when you destroyed the things that I had worked and traded my time for, that you lessened and hurt yourself. It means that you must create meaning – that the responsibility is yours and yours alone. It rests on your shoulders and in your heart. It is your courage that is needed more than anything else, and your kindness. These things will create meaning by enacting them.”
So, Dad doesn’t say anything about craving and continually finding an audience, it seems. I am looking for it, peering around me with furtive glances – where can I find someone else to tell me I am cool and important?
When I do find someone to listen, and when they compliment me, when I receive heartfelt praise, I feel guilty. I seek it. If I receive it, I feel guilt. What the FUCK is that all about? How exactly does that go with passionate frenzied (a little too frenzied, huh?) rationale that I quest for?
And the truth. Ah. Well. I am ambitious you see. I want to be listened to and read, and have my works move others, on a world wide scale. I am driven to this. I will do it. I have to find the courage. It frightens me so, to try. This is not surprising, nor is it unusual. I have met many people whose talents, at least at the time that I met them, exceeded my own. But they had never in their lives sold a painting, or entered a competition.
In all probability, they never will.
“Does it matter Dad? All of my work? All of my writing and ranting? Is it FOR anything? Am I better off screaming into the night, drunk and wild and hurting? Is it worth me fuming and crying at the edge of each painting? That it matters…My father, would you help me to know, or, at least, one day, to BELIEVE IT MIGHT BE TRUE?

“I don’t know Paul. I don’t know. I hope so.”

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